By Rachel Greenwald
This past February, the University of Maryland Senate voted to pass an all-inclusive Good Samaritan policy on campus that has the potential to save lives.
Though the Good Samaritan policy has been in effect since 2011, it only protected students who called for help for themselves or a peer when in danger of alcohol poisoning.
The new all-inclusive act has been amended to include protection for students who are in danger of overdosing on recreational drugs.
The Senate voted almost unanimously for the policy, with a vote of 81-2 and one abstention. The policy will have a great impact on all students and it has a strong base of support.
“I think it is a good idea and it promotes a safer environment for students, and I believe the benefits of the policy far outweigh the costs,” freshman undecided major Noah Ferentz said.
This amendment to the policy could not have come at a better time. In 2011, The Los Angeles Times reported that drug overdoses have surpassed traffic fatalities, with over 37,000 deaths a year. This increase in fatalities is partially due to the greater use and accessibility of prescription drugs.
When Good Samaritan policies are passed, many worry that students will become more inclined to participate in drug use, or become dangerously intoxicated. However, Ferentz disagreed with this point of view.
“Even though the policy creates a safety blanket for students, I do not think they will take participation in drug and alcohol use lightly. All the policy does is ensure that there will be no hesitation in picking up the phone and calling 911,” said Ferentz.
Although the policy has gained substantial support, some students have concerns about the fairness of the amendment when it comes to hard drugs.
“I agree 100 percent with the original policy, but I do not know how I feel about the extension on drugs. If someone is in possession of cocaine, or something like that, I am not sure if I think they should miss out on disciplinary action,” freshman psychology major Bari Turkheimer said.
Regardless of opinion, there has been a fair amount of research conducted that shows that Good Samaritan policies are very effective.
According to a report done by the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice in 2011, students who are aware of policies that provide them with immunity are 2.5 times more likely to call for help than students who expect to face disciplinary consequences.
Also, a study done at the University of Washington in 2011 found that when 355 opiate users were surveyed, 88 percent of users found themselves more likely to call 911 with the knowledge of a Good Samaritan policy.
In terms of religion, Rabbi Fred Raskind of Congregation B’nai Abraham in Hagerstown, Md., said Good Samaritan policies have a firm basis in Jewish law and text.
“On Yom Kippur we read in Leviticus 19 ‘do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow/neighbor.’ We have a responsibility to do whatever we reasonably can to help save the lives of those around us,” Raskind said.
As long as students would receive punishments for causing harm to others or property, Raskind believes Good Samaritan policies are sound.
“Creating avenues for self-responsibility, mutual caring, and community consciousness are all within the spirit of Jewish tradition,” Raskind concluded.
The idea that a sooner call could save a life has a history at this university. In 1986, Len Bias, a Maryland Terrapins basketball superstar, overdosed on cocaine in his dorm room while with teammates. He had recently been drafted into the NBA, and had the potential to be one of the best players in the game.
It was reported that Bias’ friends hesitated in calling 911, resulting in his tragically short life. This policy is intended to prevent such an event from ever occurring on this campus again.
It is a feat in itself that the university has managed to approve the all-inclusive policy, but it remains unknown to many students. Both Turkheimer and Ferentz had not heard of the amendment prior to their interviews.
“I think the policy needs to be better publicized in general for it to have the effects it wishes to generate. If people do not know about it, than there is not much of a point,” said freshman business major Dara Kramer who also heard nothing of the policy change.
This university is just one of many colleges that have put Good Samaritan policies into place. According to research from Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), there are at least 91 schools in the country with such policies. More than half of colleges that use the Good Samaritan policy provide immunity for students participating in drug use, according to SSDP research.
College is often a time of experimentation and testing the waters, as curiosity tends to ensue between the ages of 18 and 22. Good Samaritan policies help ensure that these temporary lapses in judgment will not have permanent consequences.
This university has shown it places more value on the life of students than punishment of their actions. In response to this policy, hopefully students will make future 911 calls in a matter of those seconds that could be the difference between life and death.